Monday, September 29, 2008

Faith of our fathers: SOAP No. 4

SCRIPTURE: And she made a vow, saying, “O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” – 1 Samuel 1:11

OBSERVATION: Hannah was praying for a child and, even before he was conceived, dedicating him to the Lord.

APPLICATION: I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that so many parents of well-known figures of the Bible are mentioned.

Think about it. Ruth, the great-grandmother of David, has an entire book dedicated to her devotion to God. However, I think it’s important to note that Naomi, her mother-in-law, was a Godly woman who displayed her faith to Ruth on a daily basis, which eventually led to Ruth leaving her own people and religion to wholly follow Naomi and her God. Where would we be if it were not for mothers like Naomi and Ruth?

Think about Esther’s relative, Mordecai. He raised Esther as his own daughter, and when she was taken from him, she was able to draw from her faith to become queen. And what about Elizabeth, John’s mother? There are just so many examples of how the faith of the parents has influenced their children.

If the majority, instead of the minority, of parents prayed for their children as much as these people did, I think the world would be a much different place.

I pray for my future children. I don’t know when they will come or if there will be one or ten, but I pray that they are intelligent and discerning and, more than anything else, I pray that they are Godly. That is the greatest desire of my heart for my children. Everything else pales in comparison.

My parents continually pray for me. I would know they did even if they didn’t tell me. My dad still tells me – and will always tell me, I think – to say my prayers every day. I was raised by Godly parents – I was blessed.

It sickens and disgusts me to think of parents who physically or emotionally abuse their children. I cannot fathom it. There is no excuse. What kind of country – and, really, world – do we live in where parents do such horrific things to their children?

I do not mean for this to be a “downer” blog. I really don’t. It’s a Monday morning, and I’ve got three more days of work (leaving on a jet plane on Friday for a conference). But, honestly, I don’t know where to go from here – other than I just hope that my children and the children of my friends will grow up to be strong Christian men and women who can and will change the world.

And maybe they can have prayerful parents who initiated this change.

PRAYER: God, let the men and women of this country fall on their knees and pray for their children. Let parents raise their children to be fearful of You and to know You and love You. Let me be a mother who not only speaks her faith but shows it in action as well. Let my family – me, my husband, and my children – be one that continually worships You. Help the children who are not as blessed as I was to have hope and to find peace in their tumultuous lives. Take care of them, and, through the government system or other ways, let them find a happy, godly home.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don’t be afraid: SOAP No. 3

Scripture: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. -- Psalms 119:105

Observation: This is a verse that we’ve heard so many times, that we’ve sang so many times, that we know by heart, but I really got a different perspective on it at Bible study on Tuesday night.

Application: So many times I find myself trying to make my own path in the darkness for…well, straight-up stupid reasons. Why is it that I think that my ideas are better than God’s? I mean, really???

If things go according to plan, I will start a HUGE undertaking next year. I’m excited about the results – not so much the path to get me there, though. But…everything just seems to be falling into place, and my family and I have prayed so much about this. I feel that if it’s not supposed to happen, it won’t, but if it does…it’s just going to be hard.

But after it’s complete…Wow. It’s going to make everything so much easier.

My dad always says, “Nothing good ever came easy,” and I believe that. It might be a bit of hard work, but if it's in God's will, we can accomplish it. I have seen God open and close doors – and I’ve seen myself futilely try to bang down the doors God has closed. It’s just so much easier doing things His way, isn’t it? =)

This verse really popped out to me at Bible study. Even though I’ve heard it so many times, it took on a whole new meaning Tuesday. God will guide my path. If this is the path He has laid out for me, well, I better follow it!

It calms me a lot more when I think of the plan God has laid out for me and my family. He wants us to seek Him, to know Him. He has the best ideas; why not follow them?

And…if things don’t work out, then that’s okay, too. That just means He has something better planned – and that makes me excited!

Prayer: God, I pray that you help me reach my goals for my family. I pray that I will not get discouraged or be defeated. Thank you for providing such a wonderful companion for me in my sweet husband who is a continual encouragement. Also, I pray that I will not be afraid of a little hard work. I am a dedicated worker, and I want to do my very best with what’s to come. Help me accomplish that.

**NOTE: Thanks to all who prayed for my colleagues. Nothing so far has come of Paula's plan, and, in fact, I think she's given up on it. Thank God!!!****

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A rant

Just a little announcement

I am a woman.

Yes, I did marry fairly young. NO, marriage does not mean that I should have popped a baby out nine months after our nuptials.

Yes, I plan on being a working mother. NO, this does not mean I am a pro-choice feminist.

I recently overheard three women (two college students) discussing babies, marriage, and the gender gap. The two college students, both single, were talking about how they felt that the church (and here we come with so many problems -- generalizations) condemned women in the workplace.

One of the students, in fact, said that someone from the church told her that the reason society is in the condition it is today is because of working mothers. Now, I’m not really going to dispute that. I feel that if we had more parents at home and more two-parent (ahem, one man, one woman) households that we would not have the problems today. HOWEVER, I’m not giving all the blame to parents who have to work. Heck, I will have to work after I have children (unless God is willing for another opportunity for my family to arise). My hope (and plan) is for my parents to care for my child(ren) during the workday, and I most likely will have to work.

As much as parents need to take responsibility for their children, I think the government is also to blame. So many European governments have much more lenient rules for parents – Sweden, for example, gives maternity, paternity, AND adoption leave!! AND, if that’s not amazing enough, don’t think that this PAID leave is for the skimpy 12 weeks that we in America usually get – they receive EIGHTEEN MONTHS!!! It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and learn to speak Swedish.

Why can’t we in America figure this out?
Anyway, I’m digressing because there are so many routes to take with this blog (but I’ll try to keep it fairly short).

I feel sometimes on the issue of “should a mother work?” I take the middle road. I LOVE my job. It stresses me out continuously, I am drowning in my workload, but I love it. I love writing, I love my students, I love it ALL. The good, the bad, the ugly – bring it on.

I do realize that when I have a baby I’ll have to slow down – for good reason. I can’t wait to have a sweet little bundle of joy – but I want to WAIT until it’s the PERFECT time. Oh, and by the way, I do believe that the “perfect time” is different for each couple. If you had a baby nine months after the wedding day (or less, whatever), kudos. That’s your timing. Superman and I, however, are soooooo not ready to be parents.

This comes as a shock to some Christian conservatives (and I use that term loosely and in exchange for other…comments I could call this particular duo I’m referencing) who feel that after three years of marriage, well, heck, we should have at least two kids!

Oh, yeah – we got that spill. In fact, not to go off on another tangent here, but we were called selfish for not having babies. Again, WHAT??!! Sorry, but I didn’t realize making sure everything in your life was as perfect as possible for your future baby was being selfish.

And back to the present again.

I don’t feel that people should be pressured to marry or to have kids. I HATE seeing college girls who feel like they HAVE to have a boyfriend. No, you don’t! I am very grateful that I was raised by parents (both working, btw) who were not only God-fearing, but they taught me how to be independent. Superman came as a shock to me. I hadn’t planned on getting married for a while, and then – BAM. It was perfect timing, and I couldn’t be happier about the situation. And when babies do come, I know (or at least hope, haha) it will be just as wonderful.

So. Let me summarize this blog in a nutshell (because of all the tangents):

1. No one should feel pressured to marry or have children. Not every person is called to be a spouse, nor is every person called to be a parent.

2. The government SHOULD help out with two-working-parent households, but it is unlikely that they will. Until that happy day, I don’t think people should criticize working mothers. If you’re really concerned, HELP A MOTHA’ OUT.

3. The “perfect” time to marry or to have kids is different for everyone. There is no specific age (well, not UNDERage, but you know what I mean…I hope.).

Whew. And I’m done. And I think next time I see those girls (and I will, trust me) I’ll remind them that being a Christian woman does not mean that you have to give up your work dreams.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

United we stand (SOAP No. 2)

Scripture: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. -- Ephesians 4:1-6

Observation: First, I think it is so cool that in Verses 4-6, there are seven times that the word “one” is used, as seven is generally seen as completeness. As horrible as I am with math, the way numbers appear in the Bible fascinates me. There are seven “ones” -- seven ways to show how we are supposed to be One. Okay, that probably only makes sense to me, but I think it’s awesome.

Turning now to Verses 1-3, I think it’s interesting to note how we are to stay united with other believers: with lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, love -- and it’s like Paul adds, “Hey, guys, this is not going to be easy. It’s going to be a tough fight -- get ready.” After reading a bit about Paul’s life recently, I have no doubt that he knew what we all come to realize: the world is not separated into just “good” and “bad” people. Not by a long shot.

Application: I’m a writer, and one of the things I focus on in my books is how not all people on the “good” side are necessarily good, and not all of the people on the “bad” side are pure evil. There are shades of gray, where people do bad things with good intentions. It would be so much easier if the world were separated into good and bad people who were easily distinguishable, but humans are much more complex than that. You can have one person who calls himself a Christian but badmouths his fellow brothers at every opportunity and consistently judges others by a standard that he sets himself. Unfortunately, I know people like this. We all do. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the only benefit I can see from their actions is that I can see them and tell myself, “I don’t want to be like THAT. I want my Christian witness and love to overshadow their hatred.”

Then, on the other hand, you can have another guy who is kind, generous, helpful -- and unsaved. And -- I’ve heard it so many times -- it’s because of people like I mentioned in the paragraph above that he doesn’t go to church. Honestly, I don’t know what to do about it. How do we ask people to come to church with us when some of the people who go to our church have been so rude and hateful to those we are trying to witness to?

I think Paul understood this; after all, he had to deal with many hypocrites in the church (and I use that word cautiously, I assure you). It’s so hard to keep the peace. My Sunday School teacher, a very wise woman, said sometimes you have to “love from a distance.” And I agree. That’s what you have to do occasionally with certain people. No one is going to get along with everyone; that’s inevitable. But we still have a greater purpose in this world -- to bring others to God. And we can’t do that if we continue to bicker with one another.

I think there’s a reason Paul listed the seven “ones” in Verses 4-6 (BTW, I know there’s a “one” in Verse 7, but it isn’t part of the sentence in the previous verses.). We’re supposed to be united -- to be complete. You can see this also with so many different denominations. I’m not knocking any one denomination, now. As long as you say that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lord of Lords, that He’s coming back one day, and that we are saved through faith, not actions -- hey, that’s what I believe, too! I am a child of God!!!

Prayer: God, so often it’s hard to love the unlovable, but You taught us that we’re supposed to do just that. Please let us realize that there is a greater war besides our pride and our stubbornness. Eternity is at stake. What can be more important? Please help us put aside our petty battles and work together for Your glory. I pray that people do not always base faith on poor choices Christians make and that the unsaved realize that we are continually a work in progress and will be for the rest of our lives. I don’t want to be the reason people stay away from church. I want to be the reason they go -- because they see Your love through me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why I 'broke' the computer

I mentioned in my first blog that one of the…hmm…more interesting trials I was going through at that time was that my colleague believed – and still believes – I broke her computer. I think this needs elaboration.

I am the youngest person in my department. Apparently that means I hold the title of Official Computer Guru as well. I don’t know how this rumor started, but it is 100% FALSE. Granted, I know how to do some cool little tricks with a computer but that is only because I run a Web site for my job. Other than that and working with Microsoft Word (the old version, too), I’m clueless.

Again, why I am OCG (Official Computer Guru) is beyond me. But I have one colleague in particular who calls me in her office on a weekly basis (at least) to help her with a computer problem. I’m more than happy to oblige – when I know what’s wrong. Unfortunately, more times than not, I have no idea how to assist her. I’ve always secretly suspected that she thinks that I’m just not willing to help her fix the problem – this assumption does not come without evidence, by the way, but it’s too long to get into right now.

So last week she comes to me with a jump drive and said that the documents would not open on her computer. We tried it on mine, and it worked fine. She was there the entire time, and I mentioned that the computers in our office are a little temperamental, but, maybe because I do so much online work, mine is the best-working one. We returned to her office. After leaning practically upside down to put the jump drive in the back of her computer, I stood up. And waited.

Nothing came up.

Okay, one more point of interest: her computer has been giving her horrible problems for the past six weeks. I seriously can’t believe we haven’t just scrapped the thing and gotten her a new one. It is ridiculous what she’s had to go through with it and the number of times people from tech support have come to help out. So I assumed that she would realize, with all of these recent troubles, that Her Computer Is Fried.

Instead, she looks up at me and said, “I think you broke my computer.”

Honestly, I thought she was joking. I mean, there’s NO WAY on Earth I could have broken her computer in two minutes. I’m just not that talented. So I laughed it off but thought in the back of my mind, “She really believes that…”

The next day I was talking to a friend of mine, and I was telling her about helping our colleague. I casually mentioned what she said at the end. My friend looked at me and said, “Oh, she really believes that.”

I blinked. “What?” I gasped.

“She came in here yesterday after you left and said that you broke her computer and gave reasons why.” A giggle came out of my friend’s lips.

And I started laughing, too. How could I not? True, I could have gotten mad about the situation, after all I’ve done to help her with her computer problems then and in the past, but what would that have accomplished? Plus, the whole idea is just so absurd that I just couldn’t help it.

“Well, good!” I replied. “Maybe she’ll start coming to you with her computer problems!”

I think my days as OCG are officially over. Hallelujah!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My First SOAP

Rachel introduced me to SOAPs, a self-written devotional thingie that she could probably explain much better than me. It should be self-explanatory, but if it’s not and you’re interested, let me know and I’ll get you more information.

(And, yes, I used the King James Version. This is one of my favorite Scriptures, and I love it in KJV – it’s just so beautiful.)

SCRIPTURE: Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor? The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail. But I am the Lord thy God that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name.
Isaiah 51:11-15

OBSERVATION: This chapter was written to give encouragement to the faithful of Israel to trust in God for deliverance both from their Babylonian exile and from the scattering of their numbers (Thanks, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown!!) “Captive exile” primarily deals with Babylon at the time near to the close of their captivity. Also, they may have suffered under Babylon but would soon be gloriously delivered.

APPLICATION: I memorized these Scriptures at a time in my life when I was very depressed, but they still mean a lot to me. These words are so powerful, and that was one reason why I hate to read them out of KJV – I know them this way, and every time I read them, a thrill runs down my spine.

The redeemed of the Lord shall return with everlasting joy. Isn’t that what everyone is looking for in this life? Our own Declaration of Independence states the freedom for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Though we as Christians know that happiness is not everything, we should obtain this joy that comes from knowing that our Maker is the Ruler of heaven and everything below. Sometimes it’s hard to feel joy when you or someone you love is facing difficult times. I know so many people whose faith is based on how they are feeling at the time or how satisfied they are with their life. Peace and joy do not come from mood swings, events, or catastrophes in our lives: they only come from God.

Another part of this Scripture is how God tells Israel – and us – how He is our comfort, our refuge, our safety. This passage makes me think of a benevolent and gracious Father who is wrapping me up in a warm, soft blanket on a cold winter night. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be, though? God cares for us through all seasons, through disasters and deliverance. Why should we be afraid of man? What can man do to us? Now, I ask that question, but I can think of some terrible things that man can do to us: torture and death immediately come to mind. Those things (okay, torture more than death) do scare me, but I do know that I am one of God’s children, and He’s not going to forget me. Whew!

That last verse is particularly inspiring when faced with difficult times: “I am the Lord thy God that divided the sea, whose waves roared: The Lord of hosts is his name.” Divided the sea…whose waves ROARED…The Lord of hosts is HIS name. See what I mean about these verses being so powerful?

PRAYER: God, I pray that when I am faced with difficult times that I will remember that I and my family are in Your sturdy hands. You are my Savior and Hero, the Rock of Ages, the Comforter and Healer. This world can do nothing to me that you will not know far before I will. Your words are powerful and revealing, and those who rest in Your care can rest with ease. Please help those whose faith falters when the storms come. Let them realize that everlasting joy is more than a fleeting moment in time. Let me be a mirror for you in all that I do, and please do not let the people I witness to concentrate on my shortcomings instead of my desire to serve You more.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Stress for perfection

Walking back from lunch on Friday, I saw a student crying in the hallway and being comforted by another student. I paused because I was concerned, not only because the crying student was one of mine but also because I hate to see anyone upset.

As I was hesitating and both were telling me what was wrong, I couldn’t help but wonder – egotistically – if I was the cause of this student’s distress. My colleague has said that I’m a hard professor, probably the hardest one in the department. I’m okay with that, but there’s no reason why people should start crying over my class! I want to work with my students; I want them to succeed!

I told her that her other class would be fine (the one she was crying over) and I and the other student assured her that this is the first week, after all, and no one should expect her to be perfect.

I left soon after that, leaving the older student to comfort her, as she seemed to be doing a good job anyway, and over the weekend, I realized…Wasn’t this exactly what I had been doing?

I’ve been struggling with trying to be the perfect professor, to not mess up, to juggle, really, two jobs at once – and it’s only my first week! I pretty much missed a deadline this past week AND made an error on a student’s paper. It got so bad, actually, that this weekend my eye twitched probably five to ten times each day for three days. A sign of stress, apparently. Lovely. Could be worse, though, I suppose.

(However, I would like to note that it made me feel better when I learned that the student actually really liked my class and the other class was the sole concern of her worry. Woo hoo! Wait...should I be cheering that?)

As much as I’d like to say it’s genetic (my dad is a World Class Worrier – even has frequent flier miles on Worry 797), it’s not. Well, I’m sure some of it is, but it’s like what my mom says to each of us: “Let God worry about it. I’d rather He worry about it than me, anyway.”

She’s a smart woman, my mom. =)

So I guess this week – Week 2, that is – I need to work on stress-free living. And probably procrastination, too. I procrastinate way too much without deadlines.

Bring on Week 2!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ask and you shall receive...

I am so tired.

I have officially been a college professor for a week now, and I am fatigued. My patience has been strained to the breaking point by incessant demands on my professional and personal life, trying to juggle my current job and former position (because I’m so brilliant I can do both – haha), and dealing with the pure craziness that comes from a colleague who believes that somehow I have broken her computer (long story). It has been a challenging week.

My husband, who is usually my rock and support during these times, has also been a slight source of additional pressure, but for good reason. We are writing a book, and due to my other new responsibilities, I have been slacking.

During our lunch break today, I was (in a shrill voice, I wryly noticed) just giving him the full story of all my problems and how I was praying for patience and how my motto this week has become, “Jesus, help me!” I’ve been calling on him for strength, for patience, for assistance with an uncertain financial future – just for everything, really, which is how it should be. This week, though, my prayers have been a little more whiny than usual.

Now, let me point out that Hubby is the dreamer of the family. He reaches for the stars so at least he can touch the moon, he says. I, on the other one, am logical (though he may disagree…), practical, and fairly financially sound. So, on weeks like these when he’s talking about all of the items he hopes to buy when we land a multi-million dollar book deal (like I said, the boy dreams big), including: a house in Boston, a bigger house in our hometown (and he’s already looking at plots), and last, but certainly not least, an RV painted black and gold to represent his favorite NFL team, the Saints. The RV is the bane of my existence.

As he drove me back to work, he was mentioning some of these wishful purposes, and finally, hoping that I wouldn’t burst his beautiful bubble but maybe just downsize it a bit, I turned to him and said, “Hubby, you are making me nervous. You’re spending money we don’t even have!”

“Yet,” he added, though his face was slightly crest-fallen. “But you know I would never make a big financial purpose without consulting you.”

“I know that,” I assured him, “but right now, it makes me nervous and makes me think that you won’t be happy without those things.”

He shook his head. “I am very content right now,” he promised. “I just like planning, you know that.” He began to dream again. “We’re going to have a big house with a swimming pool and a hot tub…”

I gritted my teeth. “Jesus, help me!” I cried out, unable to contain my frustration any longer.

As I cried out for help, we passed a beautiful, brand new RV decorated – I kid you not – in Saints’ black and gold -- complete with a Saints sticker on the back.

My mouth dropped. Hubby began to laugh.

“'Ask and you shall receive,’” he quoted to me, still laughing.

And he’s so right. I’ve been so wrapped up this week in worrying about what’s-may-happen-when, with trying to be the perfect professor (more on that in a later blog), and trying to downplay what could be a huge financial windfall for us in the future. We have requested that friends and family pray for us, and we too have been discussing the book with God – so what am I so afraid of?